Study Shows Need for Digital Executor in a California Estate Plan

Posted on Aug 31, 2013

A new report highlights the need for people to incorporate a digital executor into their estate plans. According to the study, consumers on average value their digital assets at $37,438. The study was funded by McAfee. It polled more than 3,000 people in 10 countries on the value of such assets as photo libraries, personal information, and entertainment files.

Unfortunately, digital assets are often overlooked during the estate planning process in California. As a result, the estate can become involved in legal battles in order to gain control over the assets. In 2012, Helen and Jay Stassen were forced to sue Facebook in order to access their 21-year-old son’s profile. They needed access in order to determine why he had committed suicide. In another example, a family had to sue Facebook, and a federal court judge in California ruled that the company was not required to grant access to the Facebook accounts of surviving members.

Strict privacy policies are often cited as the reason for not handing over control of a digital asset, even where there is proof of death in the form of a death certificate or other probate court filing. Some accounts, such as Twitter, will only deactivate the account but will not provide login information. Facebook allows for an estate to request that an account be “memorialized” or the account removed.

Unfortunately, the result is that families must suffer through even more heartache and stress than they are already facing when administering the estate of a loved one. For these reasons, it is vital to appoint a digital executor when executing your estate plan in California. Contact the experienced Anaheim trust attorneys at the Law Office of James F. Roberts and Associates, APC, today for a consultation. Call our office at (714) 459-5481.

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James F. Roberts
Founder and owner of the Law Office of James F. Roberts and Associates, a premiere estate planning law firm